In Vassar’s artistic student body, it isn’t too hard to find talented singers and musicians. However, for an artist to find someone with whom they have a musical and emotional connection strong enough to form a successful duo is rare. For Alix Masters ’15 this isn’t a problem: She found this connection early on in life with her twin brother Jacob Masters.
A senior at Wesleyan, Jacob Masters is a member of the all-male a capella group, the Wesleyan Spirits. On Oct. 9, Jacob and Alix will join forces for a performance at the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center where they will showcase their talents and brother-sister stage presence.
Jacob said, “For me, it was interesting because I never did any formal vocal stuff before coming to college. I didn’t really take vocal lessons or know how to sing, I just knew that I liked it, so for a while Alix was the maestro of all things music. Then I joined a cappella and I loved it, so it’s made me more able to sing.”
Because Alix is in The Vastards, the pair has been able to work together in this capacity throughout their time in college. Alix said, “It’s been good to collaborate and have excuses to go see each other and being able to party with each other’s a cappella groups.”
Jacob added, “It gives us a nice destination to go in the spring with my a cappella group, and it’s made me a better singer, which before I wasn’t. I’m getting close to Alix’s level now. I would normally be visiting Alix, but it gives us a reason to meet up… we have to meet up because we have to rehearse.”
The Vastards and the Wesleyan Spirits performed together last year, so the two groups were able to see what it’s like to work together with Alix and Jacob.
Ben Yassky ’17, a member of The Vastards, wrote in an emailed statement, “I’m very excited for Alix’s performance with her brother this week! It’s great to have Jacob performing at Vassar again. Last year The Vastards did a concert with his a cappella group from Wesleyan and I got to hear what a great singer he is. The Masters siblings are two incredible talents that always put on an amazing show. Getting to listen to them perform together is truly special.”
Their joint performance, called Masters and Masters, has been influenced by their time in a cappella, but has become a new type of performance in itself. Jacob said, “We perform primarily covers of songs and a couple of original songs. The instrumentation is just Alix singing and me accompanying her on the guitar. We did it last year in the same place and it was a big success, so now we’re doing it again.” Alix added, “Jacob’s going to get a cool haircut for it.”
Alix and Jacob both did the Vassar-Wesleyan Madrid program where they conceived of and performed their set for the first time.
“When we were in Madrid we started playing together around the city and we played in a bunch of bars and we developed a set. They’re a bunch of classic American songs plus some of our favorites that were big hits in Madrid, which we brought back here for fun.”
Some of the songs in their repetoire include Smokey Robinson & The Miracle’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Take Care” by Drake featuring Rihanna and “Chelsea Hotel #2” by Leonard Cohen, making for a mix of the new, the old and the reinvented.
Although they stayed in different homes while abroad, the two of them used their music collaboration as another reason to visit each other.
Alix said, “We lived in different homestays, but it was really nice because his homestay let him borrow their guitar, and so we’d have rehearsals in his apartment in Madrid. It was really great and we got to meet each other’s [host] families. That’s how we developed this joint performance show. We just did it at Vassar last year and it was well-attended so they asked us to come back. “
While the duo’s joint performance was solidified during their gigs in Madrid, the two have been playing together since high school.
Alix said, “We used to play together in high school a lot. We’d perform at our school and different coffee shops and things.”
She continued, “I used to also play the harmonica with him, more folksy stuff like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. We still do that, but with more complex arrangements.”
Jacob and Alix merge their musical styles together when it comes to their collabortaions, but their independent work in a cappella stand in stark contrast.
Jacob said, “Our a cappella groups are super different which is awesome because it allows for the shows to be different. We’re all-male with about 12 people every year; we do classical music, old college songs and pop music. They do nostalgia pop songs; they’re a lot bigger and coed.”
Though the trust involved in performing with a sibling has its advantages, Jacob noted that going from singing with an ensemble to a duo can be challenging.
He said, “As a player, it’s really nice to play with someone who’s not yourself when it comes to singing. You’re there to support the other person, but if you mess up it’s more apparent so you have to really be on your game.”
He continued, “Whereas with a band, or a rock band, orchestra or jazz ensemble…if you have about six or seven people playing you can flub a few notes and no one will notice, but in this medium it’s really hard to make sure no one will notice.”
As Alix banters with Jacob and teases him about his Justin Timberlake shirt, the two Masters argue over which sibling is the superior musician.
Alix said, “It’s really nice because I think I would be really embarrassed to sing in such an exposed way with anyone else, but since he’s my brother we can mess up and embarrass each other, and it’s still fine because we’ll always love each other.”